Category: Carter Conlon


NOT SO FAST, GOLIATH, NOT SO FAST!
by Carter Conlon

“Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle…And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together…And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass…He stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together” (1 Samuel 17: 1–5, 8–10).

Our present moment in history is very similar to the time in which the Israelites were living when they faced this situation. Remember, they were the people of God, called to represent Him in the world. The miraculous didn’t belong to the Philistines, it belonged to Israel, who had personally witnessed God’s power and deliverance. Earlier in 1 Samuel, we read of some of the previous victories they had, even under King Saul: “So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them” (1 Samuel 14:47).

Yet now as they faced Goliath, the Scripture tells us that “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:11). Isn’t that amazing? After a record of incredible victories and of God’s faithfulness, the Israelites now stood trembling under one voice that cried, “I defy you!” Threatened by a challenge that would make them servants to godlessness, they had no spirit or will to fight back. It was as if they had forgotten why God had left them in the earth in the first place—to be a testimony and a blessing; a visible display of the power of God.

HOW WE END UP POWERLESS
How is it that God’s people end up powerless before the taunts of the enemy? We find a clue when David, who became king after Saul, said, “And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul” (1 Chronicles 13:3).

In Saul’s victory days, when it seemed as if nobody could stand against the Israelites, the people of God put away the prayer meeting. The Ark was the presence of God, representing His forgiveness, mercy, power and provision. Yet they put it away and began to walk in their own strength, only to find themselves facing a giant that they could not contend with. We might rightfully say that God’s order was breaking down, and another order was threatening to take its place.

Similarly, the Church of Jesus Christ in this country has had her share of past victories, yet today we see God’s order rapidly breaking down as another order comes to take its place. If you don’t realize how ominous this is, very shortly you will. It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to get back to the Ark of God! We must drop all the foolishness that is masquerading as the presence of God and get back into the prayer meeting again.

REJECTING THE FULL IMAGE OF GOD
The Scriptures point to another reason why the people of God end up powerless. Paul explains it in his letter to the Romans: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them…When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man…” (Romans 1:18–19, 21–23).

The problem is not that people don’t have truth—they just don’t value it. It is not that people do not study it, they refuse to wholeheartedly embrace it. They do not want what truly represents the glory and full image of God to be made manifest, so they change the image of God into the image of man. In other words, they fashion a more palatable Jesus and ultimately discernment is lost.

What happens to a nation when the Church is backslidden to this degree—when she has lost her voice and is virtually cast out as a nonplayer while society marches farther and farther away from godliness?

“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator…For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:24–28).

Consider how accurately Paul’s description seems to fit of the society in which we currently live: “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:29–32).

Not only do they do these things while claiming to possess some measure of the truth, they take pleasure in those who do them, as well. In other words, they settle for a vicarious enjoyment of sin through other people’s lives. They watch television and movies, content to be entertained by fornicators, liars, murderers and thieves. According to one commentator, the final step of reprobation in a nation is when we will not do it ourselves, but we will be entertained by others who do.

As the people of God have seemingly retreated into a place of powerlessness today, the voice of godlessness is rising once again. Remember that in his taunts, Goliath said to the armies of Israel, “If you cannot put somebody forward to fight this battle and win, then you will be our servants.” That means that unless we get back to the prayer meeting—unless we embrace truth once again and allow ourselves to be empowered by the Spirit of God—we will become servants to godlessness, and the freedoms in the house of God ultimately will be lost. Sharing the burden to see people set free from sin, from homosexuality, and other lifestyles that are a robbery of what God intended them to be, will soon be considered hate speech. I feel we are not very far from the day that it will be against the law.

And so, in a time when it might cost somebody something to stand up and face the giant, we must ask ourselves: Who will have the courage to fight?

THE SECRET BATTLES
There is only one solution: God must have a people who are fearless because they have personally experienced His supernatural power in unseen places. That was the case with a young man named David.

The Bible tells us that David went to Saul and said, “…Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:32). “I will fight! You all have the training and the armor, yet you have lost touch with God! You are no longer gripped with a passion to see the glory of God revealed in the earth again, to see captivated souls set free.”

“And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33). It was as if the devil was now using Saul to try to discourage faith from coming into the battle again. “Look how small you are, you are only a kid. How are you ever going to stand up against this giant?”

David essentially replied, “While I was keeping my father’s sheep, along came a lion and a bear. They took a lamb out of my flock—a lamb I was given by my father to keep. So I went after them, smote them and delivered the lamb. And when the lion rose up against me, I grabbed hold of its mane. The Spirit of God came upon me, and I killed this lion! I won the victory over the lion and the bear, and now this godless Philistine who is standing up and challenging the honor of God will be just like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (see 1 Samuel 17:34–37).

David had already witnessed the miraculous; he had already won battles in secret places. That is why I implore you—do not play games; do not pretend to be free if you are not! Go into that secret closet of prayer, lay hold of the victory of Christ and say, “Devil, you are not having my mind! You are not getting my heart or my home! I don’t care how big you are or how small I am in your sight. I have the Spirit of God upon me, and in the name of Jesus, I take authority over you!”

VICTORY BY FAITH ALONE
Finally consenting to let David fight, Saul then tried to fit David with his armor. Now Saul’s armor probably had some marks on it to which he could point and say, “Here is where I once won the victory.” In a similar manner, there are pastors who might say to me today, “Aren’t you a little extreme? After all, we tried these methodologies, and they worked. Our church grew from two hundred to four hundred!” I can agree, just as David could agree with Saul, that yes, there are nicks on your armor from some past victories.

Nevertheless, we now have come to a season when this armor will no longer suffice. It is faith alone that will win the battle. Imagine if David had approached the Philistine with a survey, saying, “Goliath, I’m sorry you are enraged against us, but what will it take to get you to come to our church? A nine-foot bed? A twenty-five foot swimming pool?” No! David had seen the miraculous power of God. He had won victories that were supernatural, partaking of strength that could come only from the Lord. He had found some other weaponry.

Paul speaks of this weaponry in 2 Corinthians 10:4–5: “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strog holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

What was the imagination in this case? Goliath imagined that because of his size and xperience, he would be victorious. Yet he failed to realize that he had exalted himself against the knowledge of God, and that all God required was somebody of faith to rise up again—somebody who was not playing carnal games in the house of God; somebody who had won battles that nobody else knew of.

David pressed past the threats and the scorn, just as we must not be hindered by the ridicule of the godless in this hour. “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). In other words, “You have defied God! You stand here with your boasts and your weaponry, claiming that you can make us servants to godlessness. But I want you to know that you are not standing against us, you are standing against God!”

“This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee…and all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:46–47). The battle is the Lord’s! We are not going to match you force for force, and we are not going to win this in the political arena. We are going into the prayer closet, and we will come out strengthened by the Spirit of God!

“And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone…” (1 Samuel 17:49–50). In other words, David was not fighting with human strategy or effort. The only thing he had was complete dependence on God. He took off Saul’s armor and instead went to a brook and picked up five smooth stones. I don’t know how long those stones had been there before they were made smooth, but in a sense they were weapons that had been fashioned by the hand of God—just as we have been given the weapon of prayer, the weapon of being set apart, the weapon of embracing the Word to the point that it takes precedence over everything that this world is trying to tell us.

David went into the battle with only what had been given by the hand of God. We see this repeated over and over throughout the Scriptures—the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. God uses the Esthers and the Gideons; the barren wombs of Elisabeth and Hannah. The armies of Israel knew this truth, but they didn’t believe it. They instead resorted to human reasoning and natural strategies. This, too, has been the great folly of the church in America today.

IT IS TIME TO FIGHT
God help us now, for these dark and ominous days require men and women of faith. I challenge you to win those secret battles now. Don’t hold on to areas of unsurrendered defeat in your own life. Learn to live for the honor of God rather than the preservation of self. Go into the prayer closet and fight it out in the strength of God. Do not let the devil have even an inch, concluding, “All right, he took one lamb. I have ninety-nine left—big deal! Who is going to notice?” No! Go after it, for this is essential in the school of faith. We must learn to say, “We give absolutely no ground to the devil!”

The time has come to stand anddeclare the Word of God unashamedly; to fight for those who are lost, for unborn children, for our families, for our marriages, for the future of this nation! It is time to fight for what God has entrusted to us in this generation. Be aware that as you and I rise up to face the challenges of our day, everything we naturally fear will start moving toward us to convince us that our faith in God is useless. But that is when we must continue to press forward in the power of God, looking these man-made giants straight in the eye, declaring, “Not so fast, Goliath! Not so fast!”

Carter Conlon
©2013 Times Square Church

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PRESSING INTO FEARFUL PLACES
by Carter Conlon

The book of Second Kings speaks of a time when the Syrian army surrounded Samaria in the northern part of Israel and cut off the city’s food supply. This resulted in an intense famine in the land, bringing people to a point of such desperation that they resorted to cannibalism.

Have you ever noticed that when things go wrong, people tend to blame God and His people? That is exactly what happened in this case. The king of Israel became infuriated at the prophet Elisha, threatening to take off his head because of the unspeakable hardship that had come upon the city. By the time the king appeared before Elisha, he was so weak that he had to lean on the messenger who was with him.

The word of God then came to them through Elisha: “Thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria” (2 Kings 7:1). In other words, within twenty-four hours, provision would be available at such a cheap price that everybody would be able to afford it. There would be a supply beyond their wildest imagination! Yet, what was the servant’s response to this incredible news? “Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof” (2 Kings 7:2).

What a tragedy! Can you think of a more pitiful spiritual condition than seeing the provision of God right before your eyes but not being able to partake of it? That is exactly what unbelief does. It locks us out of the incredible provision of God.

Imagine, for example, that you were given a free ticket to one of the finest restaurants in town. You have the privilege of going in and ordering anything on the menu that you would like. The food is delicious beyond belief and will surely satisfy your deepest hunger. So you go down to the restaurant and stand on the street corner, peering through the window. You see all the people eating inside, and indeed the food looks good. But you are still on the other side of the window.

Somehow it is a strange affliction of humanity that we just cannot bring ourselves to go into unfamiliar places. Instead, we begin to think of all the reasons why we cannot go in and claim what was freely put into our hands. Will I be embarrassed when it becomes obvious that I have never been in a place like this before? What if I get inside and nobody serves me? What if I find out my ticket is not valid? How will I pay? And so we remain on the outside, looking in.

OUTSIDE OF THE PROMISED LAND
Sadly, that is how many people approach the Scriptures. They see what God says in His Word, they can quote His promises, they can sing about His faithfulness—but the question is, do they truly believe what He spoke? Oftentimes a deep, embedded fear remains in their heart, so they come up with a myriad reasons as to why they cannot claim the inheritance of God.

We find a similar response in the book of Numbers when Moses commissioned twelve men to spy out the Promised Land. “And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs…And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel…and brought back word unto them…and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (Numbers 13:23–28).

The spies came back and essentially said, “What God said is true. We saw the provision, and indeed it is a land that flows with milk and honey!” However, not only did they see this incredible provision, they also saw the walled cities, the weaponry, the sons of the giants. As a result, ten of the spies focused on all the reasons why this Promised Land could not be theirs.

Now I want you to draw a parallel to the way we read the Word of God. You and I are always faced with a choice. We can see God’s provision and say, “Yes, it is there. It is true, and it is mine. I am going in to get my full inheritance!” Or we can stand there and say, “I see it; God’s promises are clear. But my parents told me I was useless. My teacher said I would never amount to anything. I don’t have much of an education. God, You know I am facing the giants. I see Your promises, but can’t I just admire them from afar? Surely You understand how limited my strength is and how big the obstacles are. Are You really offended if I choose to stay on the street and just look in the window?”

IT HAS ALREADY BEEN PAID FOR
Years ago, I received a complimentary dinner for four to one of the finest restaurants in the city. I saved it and took my father and mother there for their fiftieth anniversary. The maitre d’ sat us in one of the best booths, and we were presented with a menu offering an extensive array of dishes, listed at incredible prices.

When it came time to order, the poor waiter almost choked when my father said, “I would like a hamburger patty, mashed potatoes and gravy, and no vegetables.” My father was a miner, so he was accustomed to eating that way and was somewhat fearful of change. I remember how flustered he got when the waiter broke the news to him that they didn’t serve hamburger patties there.

How many of us do the very same thing, despite the fact that the Lord has set an incredible “menu” before us? “I’ll have a hamburger patty, please,” we say, when God says we can be an evangelist. God offers us the privilege of daily partaking of His very own life; of being led to places that are beyond the familiar; of experiencing something that is deeper than anything we have ever known. It is all available as part of our inheritance in Christ.

Jesus once told His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:12–15).

Jesus was saying, “The Holy Spirit is going to come to you; He will take what is Mine and show it to you because it is yours!” We now know that Jesus was referring to all that was purchased on the cross of Calvary. In other words, “I am giving you a ticket to everything that I have bought for you on the cross. I am giving you entrance into the victory that I won; every promise in the Bible is yours. The freedom, the vision, the healing, the supernatural empowerment of God to do the impossible—it is all yours!” However, although this is freely available to us as the children of God, we still must press in to lay hold of it.

LAYING HOLD OF GOD’S PROVISION
Continuing from our opening text in Second Kings, we see that the day did come when God made provision available, thus fulfilling the word He had spoken through the prophet Elisha. How exactly did He do it?

It all began with four lepers sitting outside the city gate finally coming to the conclusion, “Well, there’s no point in staying here! We are going to starve. We might as well go into the camp of the Syrians” (see 2 Kings 7:3–4). As the four of them headed down toward the enemy’s camp, the Lord made their footsteps sound like an approaching army, striking such fear into the Syrian army that they immediately fled. When the lepers arrived at the camp, they could barely believe what they saw—food everywhere, campfires still burning, horses still tied to their posts. Everything their hearts desired was right there before them!

Moved with compassion, the lepers gave word to the city’s gatekeepers about their discovery, and provision was eventually unlocked to the entire city. “And the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord. And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate: and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him” (2 Kings 7:16–17). The king’s servant, the one who hesitated and refused to believe the word of the Lord, was run over and trampled to death. May that never become the story of any of the King’s servants today!

On the other hand, we see that a group of people pressed through to this promise of provision—just as multitudes have done over the years. Think about all who have pressed in and found the power of God—the weak who have been made strong; those who couldn’t put two words together who went on to become great preachers of the gospel; those who were once despairing and ended up bringing hope to others!

Even the early church, as frail and feeble as you and I, walked into the camp of Jesus’ victory and found incredible provision. Those 120 disciples must have been aware that stepping out of that Upper Room could have meant death for some of them. Nevertheless, they were willing to press in to that fearful place. They knew that something had been purchased for them on the cross, and they were determined to get it. The words that Jesus had spoken to them must have come back to their mind—that the Comforter was going to come to them, take the victory that Christ won, and show it to them because it was theirs for the asking.

I can picture these men and women rising up to possess what was theirs, as if they were walking straight into the Promised Land. They went in to lay hold of the resources of God that they needed—boldness, love, a willingness to lay down their lives, if necessary, for the sake of His glory. And when they came out of that Upper Room, the disciples were clothed in righteousness and the power of God. They had new minds, courage in place of fear, vision where they once saw only their own frailty. As they stepped out into the public sphere, the 120, gripped by the power of God, overthrew the whole known world of their time. Even Peter, who had previously denied Jesus out of fear, preached a sermon that moved at least three thousand people to give their lives to Christ. This early church had clearly taken possession of their inheritance of the incredible provision of God!

GET UP AND GO IN
The good news that I have for you today is: Nothing has changed! The provision of God is still available; the Promised Land in Christ is still ours. The strength and ability of God to take us into His life is still there. The only thing that we have to face is fear—the fear of change, the fear of rejection, the fear of God calling us to an arena that we are not familiar with. But that is what faith is all about. Faith does not take us to where we are comfortable or can manage in our own strength. No! Faith takes us to places where only faith can sustain us.

You and I must have a willingness to press in to these fearful places. Perhaps the fearful place for you means getting out of a cocoon of security or out of a relationship that you know is wrong. It may simply begin by getting out of where you shouldn’t be so that you can get to where you should be. Whatever the case, we must get to the point in our lives where we say, “Enough staring in the window, I am going in the door. I don’t care what people think. I have a paid ticket to the provision of God, so I am going in. I am going to sit at the finest table, and I am going to order everything on the menu!”

That is who we are in Christ, and we must not settle for less in this hour! This generation deserves to have a glorious Church; this generation deserves to have a witness and a testimony—a people who have pressed in to fearful places and laid hold of the strength of God in Jesus Christ. It is time we rise up and say, “I am not settling for mediocrity when God has called me to glorify the Name of Jesus Christ on the earth. I am not going to let the devil destroy my family when God said that if I believe, not only I but my household would be saved; that if I fear the Lord and walk in His commandments, my seed would be mighty on the earth. I am not settling for less than my inheritance. I am going to press in by faith and prayer, knowing that everything in this Bible is mine!”

As you make the choice to press in to these fearful places, people’s futures will be changed. There will be people at the throne of God who will put their arms around your neck and say, “Thank you for standing up in the workplace. I would not have known Christ if you hadn’t. Thank you for coming to me in my poverty. Thank you for being a visible demonstration of God to me!”

So get up and go in—that was the message of Elisha, and that is the word of the Lord to you today. Get up and go in, for there is a miraculous life available to all who are willing to claim it. Hallelujah!

Carter Conlon
©2013 Times Square Church

Mercy by Carter Conlon

When we pray, it is essential that we pray with hearts of faith. We are not to merely shout into the atmosphere and expect an answer. Rather, we must know the character of the One to whom we are praying and understand that His heart is one of mercy. That way we can boldly approach the throne of grace to find help in this season of need that our nation is in.
God’s heart of mercy is evident all throughout the Scriptures. In the book of Ezekiel, we read of the nation of Israel coming to a place of impending judgment. God’s own people had grown casual and immoral; government officials were corrupt; prophets and priests were prophesying things out of their own minds, no longer hearing from the Lord. They were simply telling the people what would keep them happy and pacified, even though judgment was at the door (see Ezekiel 13).
The Lord said, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30). God was looking to give a reprieve, a season of mercy, but He could not find anyone. I don’t think the Lord was looking for somebody with mountainous faith or impeccable credentials in that generation. I think He was looking for somebody who simply would agree and understand that mercy is at the heart of everything God is and does.
Mercy is the reason the Lord did not destroy humanity in the Garden of Eden. Mercy is the reason why He left a family alive on the earth in the days of Noah. In His foreknowledge, God knew that you and I would be born into this world and had He destroyed it at any time prior to our being here today, we would have been lost to ever knowing life, to ever knowing God, to ever being part of the fellowship of the redeemed that will be around His throne for all eternity. God saw the loss, and because He is merciful, He stayed His hand.
I Desire Mercy
A Pharisee once approached the disciples of Jesus and asked, “Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11). In other words, “Why does this Jesus, who claims an incredible proximity to God, waste His time hanging around those who have obviously fallen short of what we regard as the standards of godliness?” Keep in mind that the Pharisees were the ones who were supposed to represent the heart of God to their generation.
Though they were not speaking directly to Him, Jesus heard them and replied, “Go and learn what this means—I will have mercy and not sacrifice” (see Matthew 9:13). He was essentially saying, “I live on the side of mercy, but you pull back from the people and judge them by their ability to live according to your rules. You warn the people to taste not, touch not, handle not. You judge the weak; you judge those who might have pondered the things of God but ultimately walked away when they considered it too difficult.” That is exactly what religion without the heart of God becomes—a place where everybody feels judged.
Jesus later warned them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” The word hypocrite means “actors.” In other words, you are role playing what God looks like. “…For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23).
Jesus was saying, “Woe to you, for you give to the work of God to a certain point as His representatives, but you hold back from the people the deeper matters: judgment, mercy and faith.” The law should have taught them that without God, they were all under the same judgment as the sinner who walks in the door. As Paul said, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We, too, must remember that we all deserve judgment. We stand in the sight of God by His favor and His grace alone, for there is not one who is righteous. Seeing ourselves in this true light opens our hearts to the mercy of God.
Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes, “If you had only recognized that you stand by mercy, then you would not have withheld this mercy from others. You would not be setting forth standards of outward holiness as examples of who God is, while withholding from the people what the law really teaches—that God is a God of mercy far beyond what our minds can fully understand.”
Knowing the judgment and mercy of God will ultimately bring us through to faith. When we truly see our own need and understand God’s willingness to miraculously supply what we lack, our hearts will be opened to believe that what God has done for us, He can do for others. He has shown us mercy, and He is willing to show others mercy. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Can These Dry Bones Live?
Later on in the book of Ezekiel, the prophet said, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry” (Ezekiel 37:1–2).
In a season of great trial, Ezekiel was taken out to a scene that strongly resembles our society today—parts were disjointed and disconnected, strewn across a valley. The Scripture calls it an “open valley,” which represents an open and unhidden trial. Not long ago, we were in a season when Wall Street was hitting all-time highs and many were prospering. At that time, people in trial were essentially hidden and pushed to the corners. But now we all are in an open valley, and the grandeur of the mess in America has become apparent not only to us but to the entire world. Unfortunately, much of the church body is in a similar condition, captivated by the seductions of this world and left very dry. Many churches have lost the heart of God.
Just as the Lord asked Ezekiel, I believe the question He asks us today is: “Can the church in America live again?” That means the whole body of Jesus Christ—every denomination. Can we once again become a testimony to the life and power of Jesus Christ?
If you do not know the mercy of God, you will be swallowed by the impossibility—by the word of all the statisticians, the prognosticators, the naysayers and the pessimists who list all the reasons why it cannot happen. But I am here to tell you the one reason why it can happen, and it’s called the mercy of God in Jesus Christ! Mercy will touch our pastors and fill our churches once again throughout the nation. Mercy will cause the body of Christ to start feeding the hungry again. Mercy will bring the presence of the Lord back into our prayer meetings. It’s all mercy! I am not saying that the economy will look the same as it once did, for the kingdom of God is not about saving temporal sandcastles. It’s about saving people!
“Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live” (Ezekiel 37:4–5). The Lord was saying, “Ezekiel, tell them what I am willing to do. I will give you strength! I will cause you to be able to rise up again and live and know that I am the Lord.”
May I encourage you to do something? Would you simply tell the people around you what God is willing to do? Think of the people in your office, in your neighborhood, in the grocery store or in the streets. Don’t hold back because of what you see with your eyes, for the kingdom we speak about cannot even be seen with the natural eye. Don’t be caught in unbelief; don’t be caught on the side of those who have lost heart. All through the Bible, we see people who claimed to know God, but they ultimately lost faith because they lost an understanding of His character. Recently I have had this cry: “Jesus, Your Name deserves better than this. I am coming to You not because of our righteousness, for we have not represented You the way that we should have. I recognize that we have nothing to present to You. Our schemes and plans have all failed and come to nothing. We cannot present any reason why You should do what we ask, other than the fact that we know who You are—we know Your character. We know that You are the God who did not destroy this world but instead sent Your Son to die on a cross. We know that Jesus did not come because He felt some legal obligation to redeem us—He came because He is a God of mercy!”
Call Out To The Breath Of God
The Lord then said to Ezekiel, “Prophesy unto the wind…Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:9–10).
Pray and call out to the Holy Spirit; call out to the breath of God! There is no other strategy, no other power in this world. There is nothing else that will make any difference; nothing else that will be able to take down all the weapons that have been built against the testimony of Christ in our generation. We are not going to be revived by a new superstar emerging on the horizon. No, enough of that! Call out to the breath of God! Call out for God’s Holy Spirit to invade His house and His people once again.
It is time to gather with one heart and one prayer: Holy Spirit, come! Come to the Baptists, the Methodists, the Lutherans, the Catholic charismatics, the Presbyterians, the Salvation Army—all the churches in our cities! Give us the strength to pray and to work together, recognizing that there are no big or small people in the kingdom of God—we are all equally important. Help us to realize that nobody can do this alone; we need the whole body of Jesus Christ. Yes, we are allowed our distinctives, our differences, in worship style, for those things are inconsequential. What is important is that Christ is in the heart of His Bride one more time and we stand together to make a difference in our generation.
“Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts” (Ezekiel 37:11).
The testimony of the people was: We have lost strength, and there is no living water flowing through us anymore. We can barely stand and get through our own trials and weaknesses, so how can we possibly believe for something greater than our own struggles? We are too far away to even get back to that place of faith.
How many people in the body of Christ have a similar testimony today? Yet we can still take heart, as we see in the Lord’s response to Ezekiel:
“Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:12–14).
In the same way, the Lord promises to regather us even from the grave—from places of death where the stone has been rolled away and we have lost heart. God says that He will regather us from these places where we have made peace with death, and the life of Christ will be ours once again. It all has to start in the church of Jesus Christ. A spiritual awakening is not going to simply come to the streets and leave us behind sealed graves. No, it happens in the church first! That has always been the pattern of God.
No matter what area in your life is dead, it is time to get up and say, “God, breathe on me again! I give up—I am dry—I am dead. I cannot do this on my own. I cannot change the way I am; I cannot love the people around me; I cannot forgive those who have hurt me; I cannot stand up and speak with boldness. I am done trying!” I believe that is when suddenly all of heaven stands up and begins to rejoice—because finally there is another dead man whom Jesus can bring back to life. And the moment He does, the moment mercy floods your heart and faith begins to explode inside of you, it becomes easy to believe for others.
In this hour, I want to be a testimony of the mercy and glory of God. That is my message, and that must be your message. There are no how-to’s, no seven steps, no pamphlets to pass out. It is you and me going out to tell people what God has done in our lives—how merciful He has been! At the very core of our testimony is the understanding that what God has done in my life, He is willing and able to do in yours. Where God has taken me, God can take you. The healing that He brought into my life, He can bring into yours. It is all mercy! You can give me all your reasons why this nation cannot be revived, but I do not believe one of them, for I know who God is—He is a God of mercy!
Rise up, body of Jesus Christ! Rise up out of your graves, rise up out of weakness, rise up out of death and captivity! Rise up and let God be a God of mercy to you and to this generation! Hallelujah!
Carter Conlon
©2012 Times Square Church

“Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
“Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:1–11).

Forgiveness—that is what this story is all about. How important is forgiveness? Well, very simply, without it we are not saved. It is conclusive in the Scriptures that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have fallen short of who we were created to be, of how God designed our lives to be lived, of what kind of testimony we should have here on earth. We are truly amazed when we come to a place of understanding the depths of our sin yet recognize how God, in His mercy, chose through His Son to forgive us.

Forgiveness is also directly linked with mountain-moving faith. Jesus once told His disciples, “…Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe…he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore…What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:23–25). Jesus was saying, “I am willing to give you faith that can move mountains—all those things that stand before you and hinder what your life is destined to be. Whatever you are lacking, I will supply. But when you come to Me, if you have anything in your heart against others, forgive them, that your Father in heaven may forgive your trespasses.”

It is clear that without forgiveness, we cannot remain in the life flow of the blessing of God. Jesus went on to say, “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26). That does not mean that you lose your salvation every time you struggle with unforgiveness, for it is a struggle that no one is immune to. However, it does mean that when we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, a sense of well-being is lost. That life flow and ability to hear from God becomes hindered because ultimately the kingdom of God is all about forgiveness.

AN OUTWARD DISPLAY
Picture for a moment the scene in our opening text: Jesus is sitting in the temple teaching the people when suddenly in bursts some scribes and Pharisees. Keep in mind that the scribes and Pharisees were the keepers of the law—the ones who were supposed to represent the testimony of God in the earth. To their credit, they started out with the desire to preserve the Word of God. Fearing that it might eventually devolve into something other than what God had originally meant, they set out to be purists. They intended to guard the Word and to exemplify what was written in the text of Scriptures that they had up until that time. However, they ended up being more of an example of how religious zeal and incomplete obedience to the full revelation of God in the Scriptures can leave people bearing very little resemblance to Jesus.

Into the midst of the crowd they came, bringing a woman who was of the family of faith but who obviously had fallen and failed. Casting her down at the feet of Jesus, they said, “This woman claims to belong to the family of Abraham, part of the seed of God’s testimony on earth, but we caught her in the very act of adultery. Our Scripture says that she should be condemned and stoned to death. What do you say, Jesus?” The Word says that they asked this question in order to test Jesus and have reason to accuse Him. Ironically, they were quoting the Word of God, but they were arguing with the author—trying to tell Him what He meant when He wrote the Book.

Consider as well the outward appearance of the scribes and Pharisees in this whole scene. They would have been spit-and-polished, with everything pristine—their garments pressed with precision, the borders of their sleeves and skirts measured to exactly the right length. They had prayer shawls over their shoulders and prayer beads attached to their sides so that they would be known as people of prayer. Standing there adorned with all of this paraphernalia, they also had one more thing—they had stones in their hands. Or at least they had stones very close at hand, ready to condemn anyone who failed to meet their religious ideals.

REWRITING THE SCENE
Now contrast this to Jesus, who, according to Scripture, identified with the common man. He was made in our likeness, He took upon Himself our frailty, and He understands our weaknesses. He had no outward display—no symbols of prayer and obedience—except the manifestation of the full power and purpose of God.

As a carpenter’s son, Jesus likely wore regular workman’s garments. There was probably dirt around His knees since He had stooped down to write on the ground with His finger. Although we do not know exactly what He wrote, we do know that it stung the conscience of the religious but gave hope to a woman who had fallen. In other words, Jesus rewrote a scene of judgment and death into a place of forgiveness and hope. He rewrote this woman’s future—perhaps giving her the reassurance that her past as well as present frailties were still covered by the mercy of God, for she knew she was a sinner in need of a Savior. On the other hand, those standing by with the stones had long lost the understanding that they themselves were outside of the kingdom of God, having failed to represent His heart of mercy.

Jesus could not have rewritten this moment in history if He, too, had been holding stones. The same holds true for you and me. If we are found with stones in our hands, we will not have any power to make a difference or to rewrite the future; we will be unable to represent God in our generation. After all, how can we represent a kingdom that is established on a foundation stone of forgiveness if there is unforgiveness in our hearts? It is simply not possible, which is why we must come to a place of total forgiveness. Of course, this is never easy. It means that we must learn to overcome grievances that have been learned or personally experienced—sometimes deeply embedded over the course of our lifetime.

HOW TO LET GO
I remember a time when I was betrayed by somebody whom I loved and trusted. The betrayal was so deep in my heart that it took me about a year to get over it. I cannot tell you how many times I went before God and said, “Lord, I am not even at forgiveness yet—I am dealing with trying not to hate somebody. You have to help me.” No matter how many times I attempted to put those stones down, my hands simply would not let them go. If I succeeded in throwing them down for a moment, it was as if a bungee cord was attached to them, and they eventually bounced right back up into my hands again.

Nevertheless, I persisted in the battle, not willing to be a hypocrite in the kingdom of God. I found myself in the same place over and over, praying the same kinds of prayers, until one day, the Lord spoke to my heart: “Here’s how to do it. Turn your hands over and let Me take the stones away.” I realized at that moment that it was impossible for me to put them down in my own strength. Only the Lord could take away the stones, and I found that He was willing to do it.

The Scriptures speak of another man who had stones in his hands. He dwelt in the mountains and in the tombs—one is a high place and the other is as about as low as you can go on the earth (see Mark 5:1–5). However, instead of casting his stones at other people, he was cutting himself with them. It is a picture of a person who hates himself for what he has done and for what he is becoming. Just like the Pharisees, this man needed the courage to say, “Jesus, take these stones from my hands.”

Likewise, many Christians today are unwilling to forgive themselves for the things they have done in the past. Although the Lord has cleansed them, they persist in calling themselves unclean. God alone can give them the grace to let go of the past—to release the stones from their hands.

REPRESENTING CHRIST IN THE DAYS AHEAD
Without forgiveness at the core of our being, we can talk about Jesus, but we cannot represent Him. People who merely talk about Jesus become concerned solely about the exterior—about their own reputation, about being called, “Teacher, Teacher” and having the best seats at banquets (see Matthew 23:6–7). These things become the whole focus of their life. The people who truly represent Jesus are the ones bending down, writing in the sand. They are rewriting into people’s lives the mercies of Almighty God, no matter what they have done or how they have fallen.

I believe very soon many prodigals will be returning to the house of God—men and women who perhaps gave their lives to Christ when they were young, yet somehow ended up on a wrong path. They took the life of Christ and went far beyond the borders of where they should have been living—but not beyond the reaches of God’s love. And now the Lord is giving His church the opportunity to represent Him, offering these people hope for the present and rewriting their future. Just as the father welcomed the prodigal son when he came home, we can put our arms around others, covering their failures and empowering them to become everything that God is calling them to be. We can put a robe over their shoulders, shoes on their feet, and invite them to join us on the journey. But before we can do this, we must put down our stones.

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to misrepresent Christ in this world. Yet if I am ever going to err, let it be on the side of mercy. Let it be mercy that rewrites my life and the life of everybody God desires to touch through me. I want to be a bridge builder, not a bridge destroyer. I want to see the church come to life once again in our generation—every race, every nationality, every denomination coming together as one body in Jesus Christ for this final moment of time. This means that all of us must drop our stones—denominational stones, racial stones, all the grievances that we have been holding on to. By the grace of God, we must be willing to stoop down, get our hands and knees dirty, and start rewriting the future in people’s lives.

It all begins by holding up our hands and saying, “Jesus, take the stones from my hands. I know that I do not have a right to carry these, but I cannot put them down. You have to take them from me.” Remember, Jesus is not angry with your frailty or your struggle. All He is asking is that you simply turn your hands over and trust Him. Trust Him to take away any unforgiveness in your heart, any self-condemnation, any inner judgments that you may not even be aware of. It is God alone who can help you to forgive and bring you into this place of mercy and faith that He speaks of. It is God alone who can enable you to stop beating yourself for your past failures.

If we do not come to God and allow Him to take away these grievances now, as the body of Christ we are going to be swallowed by the evil of this generation. After all, it is clear that we are living in an hour when society is becoming increasingly divided and civility has practically gone out the window. This comes as no surprise, for Jesus warned that in the last days, nation will rise against nation (see Matthew 24:7). In the original Greek, this means that ethnic culture will rise against ethnic culture. In other words, the world will be marked by bitter divisions and hatred. Yet in the midst of this, you and I cannot be found like the rest of society. If we end up embracing any part of this system that is throwing stones at each other, we will no longer represent the Christ who went to a cross. Let everyone else do the judging, but we are called to live by a higher law—the love of God, the mercy of God and the forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus. It is the willingness to embrace what we would not naturally embrace; the willingness to call “clean” what others regard as unclean; the willingness to receive with hope
what others would call failed.

There is no other gospel that will change the hearts of men. It is not our garments, it is not our Scripture memorization, it is not our big Bibles —it is the love and mercy of God in our hearts that will make the difference. It is time to allow Jesus to take the stones out of our hands so that we can truly represent Him in this generation. As we learn to forgive, and as we are willing to stoop down and identify with people who the whole religious scene is about to write off in their ignorance, I believe there will be a harvest of souls in this generation beyond anything we ever could have imagined. Hallelujah!

Carter Conlon
©2012 Times Square Church

Much of the church in our generation seems to have been on a never-ending pursuit of God—only to emerge with little fruit to show for it. As a result, I believe a cry has come into the hearts of many of God’s people today: “I have sought God in the only way that I know, the only way I have been taught. I have tried to find Him in all the places they said He was, but I could never seem to lay hold of Him. I feel like the psalmist who cried out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?’ (Psalms 22:1–2). I cry, but it is as if God does not hear me. Why?”

Suddenly it seems all our religious activity has come to a screeching halt, and we realize that despite all our seeking of God, we still fail to impact our society the way the church of Jesus Christ ought to. Now we finally have the sense to stop and ask the question: Lord, why have we been seeking You but You have not been answering us? I believe something within the story of Saul and David answers this question. Let’s look at the relationship between them as a type of your and my relationship with Jesus Christ.

SAUL AND DAVID
Although he was king over the nation of Israel and master of his own destiny, Saul eventually came up against an enemy that he instinctively knew was too strong for him (see 1 Samuel 17). He and all the people under his leadership stood trembling before a Philistine giant named Goliath. In the midst of his dilemma, David, a type of Christ, came to Saul with words of courage and faith: “Do not fear. I am going to go fight this battle for you, and I am going to win” (see 1 Samuel 17:32, 37).

Saul ended up embracing what appeared to be a foolish battle plan. A young boy filled with a heart of faith and a desire to see God glorified in the earth went out to fight for him. It was a battle plan that Saul would not have considered had he remained strong in himself. Similarly, if we have the courage to admit it, we would not have considered Christ if we had not eventually come to recognize our inability to win our battles in our own strength.

David went into the valley and decapitated the power of the enemy’s army. Saul soon found himself in hot pursuit of the enemy although he was actually getting the spoils of another man’s victory. When you and I embraced the cross, we too, entered into a power and victory that was not our own. It was Jesus Christ who won the battle over the powers of darkness. It was Jesus who unlocked our prison doors, brought healing to our wounded hearts and gave sight to our blinded eyes.

After this great victory, Saul took David home and made him a part of his household (see 1 Samuel 18:2). Similarly, when we came to Christ, we didn’t leave Him at church. We took Him home just as Saul took David home. David sat at Saul’s table, just as you have Jesus at your table when you open the Bible and spend time with Him.

Saul also benefitted from David’s skillful musicianship (see 1 Samuel 16:16–23). The Bible doesn’t specify, but it is likely that a spirit of worship coming from David’s heart as he played on that harp caused an evil spirit which was troubling Saul to let go of him. Today we have the assurance that the Lord “…will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). Perhaps there have been days when you felt heavy and oppressed, and your mind seemed to be caught in a tangled web of attacks. Yet after worshiping, you found that your mind was suddenly clear and that this evil had lost its hold.

In many ways, we find ourselves in a place very similar to where Saul was in his relationship with David. Eventually, however, something happened that began to separate the two of them. Likewise, I believe that in our generation, something has begun to separate Christ from His church. If we are wise, we will stop and consider: What happened in this relationship between Saul and David?

THE TURNING POINT
“And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward” (1 Samuel 18:6–9).

Here is the key: Up until this point, Saul was still in control of his own life, and David was merely a wonderful addition to his kingdom. This is exactly how many people regard Jesus Christ today, which is not surprising since that is the way He has been portrayed in much of the preaching of our generation. Add Jesus to your plans, add Him to your career, add Him to your self-image. Just add Jesus! He is the power of God and will make a wonderful addition to your kingdom.

Things took a turn in their relationship when one day it dawned on Saul: David was increasing and he was decreasing. Remember, John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” Suddenly Saul realized, “Wait, David hasn’t come to be a wonderful addition to my kingdom—he has come to be the next king!” From hat day forward, Saul gathered his men and began to pursue David.

Most people do not have a problem adding Jesus to their agenda, but the thought of His becoming king and their becoming His subjects is where the real struggle begins. One day they realize the Lord is asking something of them that does not agree with their plans, and they suddenly find themselves at a juncture. Unfortunately many people, just like Saul, refuse to yield the throne. Of course, very few would have the courage to openly admit, “I am walking away from Jesus,” so they continue their pursuit of Christ. However, the pursuit is now only for the purpose of validating a throne they refuse to yield—an attempt to get the Lord to agree with their own personal agenda.

A FUTILE PURSUIT
“And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon? Then Saul arose, and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having three thousand chosen men of Israel with him, to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph” (1 Samuel 26:1–2).

What a classic picture of the type of pursuit of God so common in our generation! Saul would receive a report about where David was, and then with three thousand of his men, he would set off to find him. When the search failed, another report came and off they would go in another direction. Yet in this whole pursuit, he was never able to find David. How frustrating it must have been to always come back empty and seeming like less of a king than when he had set out—a sentiment shared by many today as they return home empty after attending the latest conference or supposed manifestation of Christ.

At one point in the pursuit, David and his servant Abishai had entered the very camp where Saul and his armies were sleeping. “So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul’s bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked: for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from the Lord was fallen upon them” (1 Samuel 26:12). David took Saul’s spear—a symbol of his strength and ability to make war. He also took Saul’s water bottle, which is the replenishment of God. In the New Testament, this is the spring of living water that Christ promises to those who truly belong to Him.

After they had climbed a hill opposite Saul’s camp and were a safe distance away, David called over to Saul: “Do not let my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord. For the king of Israel has come out to seek a flea, as when one hunts a partridge in the mountains” (1 Samuel 26:20, NKJV). David was essentially saying, “You are seeking me, but you cannot find me. It is as if you are hunting a flea or a partridge in the mountains.” Did you know that a partridge can camouflage itself? It may be a foot away from you, yet it can make itself the same color as the leaves and you will easily walk right past it. David continued to call over to Saul, “…Behold the king’s spear! And let one of the young men come over and fetch it” (1 Samuel 26:22). In other words, “We are a mountain apart, but here it is if you want it. Send one of the young men over to fetch it.” If only Saul had possessed a measure of humility in his heart at that point and said, “No, David, I am the one who should have been guarding it. I will come and get it.” It was a wonderful opportunity for Saul to humble himself—a moment that could have made a difference in history. In a sense, he would have been bowing his knee before the real king.

Now consider this scene again, keeping in mind David as the Christ-type and Saul as a type of what the church has become after walking in the stubbornness of our own ways. In our spiritual slumber, the Lord has come and taken our spear and our water bottle. He has taken our ability to conquer and removed what refreshes us. And now, just as David cried out from the hill, Christ is crying out to our generation from Calvary one more time, “Here is your strength to make war; here is the Living Water you are looking for. Come and get it!” Responding to this call requires humility. If you try to go up a mountain standing erect, you will fall over backwards. You must go up in a position of humility.

Saul could not bring himself to lay hold of the spiritual principle in this, just as there are people today who refuse to humble themselves and allow Christ to be Lord of all. Seek Him all you want—travel the world; hear about a revival in some country and get on the first plane over—but if you are not willing to bow and let Christ be Lord of all, your seeking will be in vain and you will constantly come home weak, empty and dry. Eventually you will reach the erroneous conclusion that Christ cannot be found and that revival in personal measure is just an illusion.

THE SEARCH IS OVER
Interestingly, the Scriptures also tell the story of four hundred distressed, debt-ridden men who headed toward where David was (see 1 Samuel 22). The beauty of it all was that they did not have a hard time finding him. Saul with his three thousand men, probably including some of the best spies and scouts in the land, travelled all over the countryside and could not find David. Yet four hundred discontented men just got up one day and essentially said, “Enough of this! We’re going where the anointing of God is.” So they went into the cave where David was, just as we are called in our generation to come outside the gate and join Christ (see Hebrews 13:12–13). They went outside of the system that had rejected Him as Lord, and David became captain over them.

These men did not come in their own strength or with their own resources, for they did not have any left. They did not come with a plan—they went to get the plan. It was as if each of them had concluded, “I would rather die with David than live in the kingdom of Saul with his powerless pursuit. I am going to where the power of God is.”

How was it that many of these men later went on to accomplish incredible feats—eventually being named among David’s mighty men (see 2 Samuel 23)? I believe it all started in that cave. I can imagine David telling them the story of the day he defeated Goliath. After all, what else was there to do in the cave? The four hundred would say, “David, tell us again. Tell us how you had the courage to go into that valley!”

And so David would rehearse the story over and over again—how he knew it just was not right for the men of God to be cowering on the mountainside while this giant perpetually raised his voice against the glory and honor of God. “Then the Spirit of God came upon me, and I stood there and called, ‘You come to me with a staff and a spear, but I come to you in the name of the Lord God of hosts, the God that you have defied!’”

I can just see courage and strength rising in these men’s hearts day after day until they finally concluded, “If God did that for David, and if that is how He is going to be honored, then I refuse to live in mediocrity any longer!” It is a type of those in our generation who say, “I am not searching anymore. I have found Him, for I am no longer trying to force my agenda into the kingdom of God. I have chosen instead to be abandoned to the will of God and to live for the honor of His name!” The four hundred found strength as they followed in the footsteps of David—just as those of us who are willing to follow in the footsteps of Christ will be empowered to change the course of history.

The Lord will once again take the weak, the discouraged, the disillusioned—the one who is an honest and sincere seeker of God. He will use the one who is not trying to bring any agenda to Him, but rather is seeking and walking in His will. Throughout history we have seen that when ordinary people seek the face of God with honesty, they find the fulfillment of the promise, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, NKJV).

I pray that in this hour, God will give us the courage to bend our knee to the lordship of Jesus Christ—that He will give us the power to humble ourselves and stop pursuing Christ for the wrong reasons. No more coming into the prayer closet and presenting God with our own plan, expecting Him to bless it. Instead, let us go in and find God’s plan, for there is no other plan and no other way. One more time, let us yield ourselves to His will, unto the death if necessary. That is how we will be set free from this futile pursuit and truly empowered to influence our generation. Hallelujah!

Carter Conlon
©2012 Times Square Church

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:1–4).

It is critical that those of us who have been walking with God for any length of time pay special attention to these words. Ephesus was a church that was theologically sound. The followers of Christ tested what was preached and did not tolerate anything that strayed from truth. These were a working people who labored without fainting, but something had happened to them along the way—they had left their first love.

Have you noticed that there is something very attractive about first love? That is why we love weddings! Even the most callous person is strangely warmed inside watching a young couple exchanging vows at the altar—a classic picture of first love. The couple sees no wrong in each other, and they look forward to sharing the rest of their lives together.

Imagine a scene fifteen years later when this same wife is feeling under the weather. Her husband is sitting at her bedside at 3 a.m., holding cough medicine and reading to her its healing ingredients. “Honey, this cough medicine contains 6.2 milligrams of diphenhydramine, which is an antihistamine and a cough suppressant; 2.5 milligrams of phenylephrine, a nasal decongestant.”

She simply looks at her husband and asks, “Why are you reading all this to me?”

He replies, “Well, there are a lot of frauds on the market, and I’m not willing to go to all this trouble and have you take an inferior product.”

Suddenly she looks up at him and asks, “Do you love me?”

“Of course I love you,” he says. “It’s 3 a.m. and I’m sitting here discussing with you the truth of the healing that I hold in my hand.”

Remember when Jesus appeared to His disciples on the shore and asked Peter a similar question? Jesus turned to him and asked, “…Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15). We do not know exactly what He was referring to when He said “these,” but it must have been something within reach, something He was pointing to.

Perhaps it was the boats, the oars, the nets, the friends. Peter must have loved the smell of the sea, handling the oars, the thrill of casting his nets into the water and bringing in fish, the camaraderie that he shared with his friends. Suddenly Jesus is asking him, “Do you love Me more than these? Do you love Me more than the things that you have become familiar with? Do you love Me more than what you have grown accustomed to tasting, touching, feeling and handling?”

Peter could have replied, “Well, I am here, aren’t I?” The Scriptures tell us that when Peter saw Jesus standing on the shore and one of the disciples recognized it was the Master, Peter leaped from the boat into the water. There was a love in his heart. He could have said to Jesus, “Didn’t you notice that I got here first? I had my seat reserved at the fire before the rest of the people even arrived. Why would You ask me if I love You? You know that I do!”

Today I could ask you this same question in Christ’s stead. Do you love Jesus? Do you really love Him? Some would answer, “Well, of course, I love Jesus. I would not be reading this if I didn’t love Jesus. I would not be studying the Scriptures and examining truth if I didn’t love Jesus. I would not be going on missions trips if I didn’t love Jesus. It is quite obvious that I love Him.”

Let us look again at the husband who carries on with his duty to properly present the medicine that he holds in his hand. Once again, in a voice barely above a whisper, his wife asks him, “Do you love me?”

In reality, this husband has become much like that church in Ephesus—concerned about having the right product, concerned about getting up because of duty and doing the right thing, concerned about the appearances of love. Yet Jesus said to this church, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4–5).

When I first came to Christ, I could hardly wait for opportunities to read the Word of God. Winning the lost seemed as easy as breathing. There was no program involved—I simply loved Jesus with all my heart. People would ask me, “What happened to you? Why do you always seem to be so calm? What is the difference that I see in your life?”

I did not open my mouth and explain, “Well, I have been testing and proving those who claim to be apostles, and I found them to be liars.” Neither did I tell them that it was because I had gone on a missions trip or had been working in the house of God. The answer was simply, “I love Jesus. He has come into my heart and transformed my life. He has broken the power of the things that once bound me, and He has given me hope for a future. He is teaching me how to be a good husband and father.” I had a simple answer because in my heart, I loved Him. People are attracted to that relationship of first love.

A THIRD TIME
Having just answered Jesus’ question, Peter was probably settling down by the fire when Jesus once again asked him the same question, “Do you love Me?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, You know I love You.” Perhaps Peter should not have been so quick to answer, for he was asked the same question one more time.
“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee…” (John 21:17). By this point, Peter was exasperated and essentially said, “Lord, You know all things. You have already asked me this twice, and this is the third time. You know that I love You. Why would You keep asking me that question?” Jesus answers him succinctly:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me” (John 21:18–19).

Jesus was saying, “Peter, just embrace Me once again. Do you remember those early days around the table when I told you I was going to Jerusalem and that I was going to be betrayed and crucified? Remember that day when you said, ‘I will go with You and I will die with You. Where You are, there I will be?’ You did not say that out of duty, you said it because you loved Me. Now I am asking you to stretch out your hands and embrace Me one more time. Embrace Me in the way you
did in those first moments.”

This is the same thing that the wife was saying to her husband as he dutifully read the contents of the cough syrup: “I just want you to embrace me. I want to know that I am the love of your life and not a labor in your life. I want to know that I am still as important to you today as I was that day we spoke those vows to one another. I don’t want you to read to me, I want you to hold me!”

There are men reading this whose marriage is not going well. Could it be because you have lost your first love? I believe if you will reach out and embrace your wife again, you will find that she still wants to be given to you, that she still desires to walk with you. God has put it in her heart to be loved by you. You will find that a lot of healing will come into your home if you will just simply reach out, stop talking and start holding.

The Lord went on to say in Revelation, “…To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). I believe Jesus was saying this to the church in Ephesus as well as to His Church today: “Will you simply love Me as you once did—when no cost was too great and no journey was too far? Will you reach out and allow Me to lead you? Will you embrace My will for your life and walk with Me wherever I go? If you are willing, I will unlock to you the full victory of Calvary and it will be strength and life to you.”

THAT WHICH MAKES US ATTRACTIVE
“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:5).
So what is the candlestick? Simply put, the candlestick is the light of first love—that bright, burning flame. It is what makes Christ in us attractive to people who are outside of the kingdom of God. It is what makes our children want to follow God.

Have you ever noticed a young couple in a restaurant eating together, so in love that they are not even aware of the food on their plates? They are staring into each other’s eyes while the food is getting cold. Then you look at the same couple twenty-five years later—he is reading the newspaper and she is looking out of the window. The only words they have to say to each other are, “Nice potatoes.” “Yeah, and these peas aren’t bad.”

There is nothing attractive about that relationship, nothing that would cause young people to look at them and say, “Wow! I would love to be married someday and have a relationship like that!” Likewise, when our relationship with Jesus degenerates into simply testing and proving, laboring and concentrating on not fainting, keeping right and avoiding the fraudulent, nothing attractive remains. There is nothing about our relationship with Christ that anybody in the world is going to desire, let alone ask about.

Yet that is the danger we can fall into. It is so easy to become an Ephesus church, focusing on doing everything right. Right doctrine, right works, right programs—all at the expense of losing what was so precious in the beginning. God help the bride of Christ who suddenly needs a pamphlet to talk about her Bridegroom. “Can I tell you about Jesus? Wait, I have it here somewhere. There is a pamphlet here that describes Him. Yes, let me tell you about my Bridegroom.” No! Our hearts should be captivated! Just as it says in the Song of Solomon, “Have you seen him? He is the fairest among ten thousand! He is altogether lovely!” (see Song of Solomon 5:10–16). That is first love.

RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE
I don’t know about you, but I want to finish this race the way I started. I want my marriage to finish even better than it began. I want my love for Jesus to increase. I don’t want to preach in different places and have people conclude, “Wow, he sure is theologically accurate. He sure can rip apart the false prophets. He sure can labor without fainting.” I would much rather people notice, “He sure does love Jesus! Everything in his being, everything in his voice, everything in his eyes simply exudes a relationship that I would like to have!”

Perhaps you started out so in love with Jesus, yet somewhere down the road that love has degenerated. In your heart you know that your relationship with Him is not what it used to be. It has become all about works, doctrine, and learning to endure. If this is the case, Jesus would say to you today, “If you can overcome this declension and get back to your first love, all that I have will be yours again. I will fill your heart with compassion. There will be light in your eyes, and people will ask you the reason for your hope.”

How do we come back to our first love? I believe it starts with asking the Lord to ignite our hearts once again, and then simply reaching out and embracing Him. Jesus told Peter, “Stretch out your hands.” He was talking about embracing the Lord—embracing the heart and will of God; walking together with Him in intimacy again.

Don’t let your candlestick be taken away in this critical hour. Come back to your first love, whether you have walked with God for fifty years or for ten. Simply come back to that place where you love Him with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength. We must have the flame of first love burning brightly in this dark hour. This is what our testimony should be; this is what will bring Him glory in our generation!

Carter Conlon
©2012 Times Square Church

As we have stepped into this New Year, I believe we also have entered a season when the Lord is asking His people to stop and consider something. Most likely it will be a short season, but a critical one—a season to seriously consider the extent to which we are willing to embrace and follow the full pathway that God has put before us.

Unfortunately, we are living in a time when much of the church of Jesus Christ has become hemmed in by the boundaries that society has set around it. We have allowed a handful of people to dictate when we can and cannot pray in public; what we can and cannot do in the name of Christ. Such limitations have been put in place despite the fact that those who believe in Jesus statistically comprise over 70 percent of the American population. We have retreated to a place where we can be assured that we will be tolerated—knowing that the world will have no problem as long as there is nothing in the church that stands as a definitive contrast to a society that continues to cast off moral restraint at an unprecedented level.

In God’s Word we read of a church called Ephesus—a church known for its works, endurance and doctrinal purity. Yet Jesus said to them, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4). The church had lost the very thing that made her attractive—a wholehearted love for Christ and the embracing of His work on the earth. Those outside the church must have looked in and seen a relationship of merely mutual tolerance, much like a marriage that had lost its spark of love and passion.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? The first days of your marriage? You were filled with passion, unashamed to be seen in public with your spouse. You walked down the street arm in arm, proud to acknowledge that this was the person you had given your life to.

Sadly, we look at much of what is purported to be the testimony of Christ today and cannot help but wonder where the passion is. It is like the married couple who stays together for convenience or for the sake of the children, all the while completely unaware of how unattractive their relationship has become. No wonder so many people have concluded, “If this is what a relationship with God looks like, no thank you! If this is the passion it produces, if this is the character that evolves from it, I would rather find something else.”

A MERCY CALL

Although we have in large measure moved away from the simplicity of Christ and have formulated theologies to justify our backslidden condition, I am thankful this is not the end of the story. The Bible tells us that we have a season to consider our ways. The prophet Haggai spoke to the people of God who were called to rebuild the testimony of Christ in their generation:

“Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little…Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit” (Haggai 1:4–10).

Consider your ways! Haggai was saying to the people, “You have settled into a form of religiousness. You developed strategies to fill the house of God and mask the encroaching spiritual bankruptcy, but now you suddenly find heaven closed. You boasted of a great harvest that was going to come in, but where is it? You had sporadic gatherings, seemingly with no substance, and the Lord blew it all away.”

Today’s church has made conversion so easy. There is no longer a need for repentance, no requirement to turn from sin, no admonition to give one’s life fully to the work and cause of Jesus Christ. Instead, people are told that if they will simply repeat a little two-line prayer, their sins will be forgiven and they will be on their way to heaven. We have opened the gates wider than the Scriptures have opened them. We have brought in a supposed harvest, but now are finding that this harvest has no power to stand against all that society is throwing against it. Many claim to be Christians, but where are the warriors—the men and women of character? Where are those who are willing to stand in the face of the storm?

“And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands” (Haggai 1:11). The Lord called for a drought, and this is exactly where we find ourselves today. The Lord has called for a drought in America in order to get the attention of His people, as well as that of a lust-laden society.

Remember, the mercy of God sends us into the storm. Yes, it is judgment, but mercy precedes and triumphs over judgment. We need to be brought into a place of realizing our true condition. How tragic it would be to live as if everything is fine only to discover later that we missed the whole purpose, stopped short of the gateway to eternal life, and lived a cultural Christianity with no reality in it.

AN ALTAR OUTSIDE THE GATE
The writer of Hebrews tells us, “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle” (Hebrews 13:10). We have an altar! Yet there are those whose whole relationship with God is based on ordinances, laws and obligations. They have lost their passion and settled for a mediocre Christianity, just doing their time, reading their Bible for ten minutes every day, and vocally professing to be a Christian. They may not have the courage to love God in public or the heart to do His work, but there is also an altar for that—an altar with no power. There is no lasting ability, no sustaining strength, no revelation—nothing but ideas out of men’s natural minds.

On the other hand, there exists an altar that is much deeper and more satisfying, but it requires a refusal to settle for rituals and profitless labor. That is why Paul said to Timothy, “Stir up the gift of God that is in you” (see 2 Timothy 1:6). When you first came to Christ, the hand of God came upon you, and you were called to do something that only you could do. God gave you a responsibility, and He endowed you with gifts to glorify His name. So do not let things spiral down to the point of merely coming to church out of obligation; a passionless relationship with God that bears no fruit in the earth. If you allow that to happen, you can be certain that nobody will desire what you have. People will look at your relationship with God and conclude, “I am already despairing enough. I do not need religion adding to my misery!”

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12). He suffered outside the gate! For the sake of saving us and enabling us to walk again with a holy God, Jesus traveled outside the gate—outside the limitations, outside the borders of the religion that tried to confine Him. He could have risen to become one of the highest in the whole echelon, but He refused to play their game. Therefore, they dragged Him outside the gate, outside of the city.

“Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:13–15). You and I are called to “go forth out of the camp” to where Jesus is. In other words, we have a chance as a church to come out from our cultural captivity—to come out to a new place where our mouths are open in constant thanksgiving. We can come out and approach the altar where the fire of God truly is, where His glory abounds, where people are given abilities that could only come from the heart of God.

Going to that altar requires humility, a contrite heart—admitting that perhaps our religion falls short of the glory of God for our lives. Notice that the Scripture speaks of “bearing His reproach.” That means it will require a death to self and a willingness to step outside the gate, for that is where this altar is found. At this altar we are willing to endure the scorn of a fallen world; we will not let the snickers in the workplace prevent us from bowing our heads. No! We have an altar, and it is called being given for the glory of God and for the souls of men. There is a place that this church age has been called to—a place where we fight to bring people into true freedom.

Hebrews 12:1 says it this way: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…” The writer is referring to those saints described in the previous chapter—those who faced threats, fire, flood, trial, personal inability—yet none of these things were able to stop them. The same holds true for every genuine believer in Christ today—there is nothing that can stop the plan of God ordained for those who choose to be given for His glory.

“…Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). No weight can crush us; no sin can keep us! Jesus came to give sight to the blind, to open the prison doors to those who are bound, to heal those whose hearts have been wounded. That means we are free to get up and walk out of every place of captivity, and no opposition or limitation can stop us in this race. The only thing that can stop us is our personal choice to live within the confines that a fallen society has placed around us, cowering when they regard us as narrow, misguided, weak or foolish.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him… ” (Hebrews 12:2). The source of His strength, the vision that was before His eyes, was the joy of seeing you free; the joy of having you back in a living relationship with Him! It was all about you and me. Yet what have we set before us in this generation? Gold, cars, jobs, position and power. No wonder there is no joy in much of what professes to be Christianity. Our focus is wrong—it should be all about people! Jesus did not quit or give in to the scorn or accusations that came against Him, because He saw you and me ruling and reigning with Him forever. We will not tremble or remain silent once we begin to see the men and women around us the way Jesus sees them.

“[He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus won a victory! That is the altar that you and I have if we are willing to join Him outside the city; if we are willing to escape the boundaries and be put outside of a people who really are fighting against their own salvation.

“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:3). Consider Him! Consider what He endured, and consider what you are willing to endure. Consider how deep and how far you are going to go in this walk with God. Are you going to settle in and become a powerless voice as Lot did—a man who was so intermixed with the ways of society that even after meeting with angels, he could barely bring his own family out of captivity? Or will you be like Noah, who built an ark, enduring the ridicule of people who passed by every day, and said, “You foolish old man, it has not rained here for years, and you are building a boat?” Yet the Bible says that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and he brought his whole family to safety with him.

STOP AND CONSIDER
Do you feel the urgency of this hour? Do you realize that we are about to enter a storm of unprecedented proportions? Just as in Noah’s day, some people may ridicule this message and put it away. However, I urge you to get oil now, to get strength now, to make a choice now. As Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

The prophet Isaiah said that in the last days, in the midst of the darkness, there will be a people who have a song of praise to God (see Isaiah 30:29). Of course, that does not just happen. It all starts when we make a choice to consider Jesus, understanding that the victory He has already won can be ours. We make a choice to go to an altar in a place that those who play games with God cannot go.

I encourage you to let 2012 be a year when you consider Jesus. Consider whether you will follow Him all the way. That means not being half-measure, not falling short, not running a cheater’s race, not bowing to the boundaries of society, not settling in to a relationship of begrudging service in the house of God. If you are determined not to settle for anything less than the fullness of what He has for you, you will find that the Lord will give you the strength of character to be salt and light in your city. He will give you compassion for all men, even those who oppose you. You will be taken into the divine life of Christ, and this will be a year when God will astound you!

Carter Conlon
©2012 Times Square Church


In the days of Solomon, there existed a magnificent temple filled with the presence and glory of God—a place marked by divine order and beauty. However, the people were careless with this glory and were taken into captivity, which was the chastisement of God. It is true that God will chasten His people, but only out of love. Then He will call them to rebuild.

The Lord put it on the heart of Cyrus, the king of Persia, to write a decree allowing the people of God to return to Jerusalem to rebuild this place of former glory. However, in their attempts to rebuild, this group of returning Israelites encountered serious opposition—much like you and I do once we are determined to make our lives count for God. They became discouraged, which caused them to turn inward and rely on their own reasoning, eventually bringing them into what I would call a lesser glory. It was now simply a natural people trying to build a natural kingdom. Ultimately they began to focus on their own houses rather than on the work of God.

When you and I lose the supernatural, we lose the heart of God. As soon as we lose the heart of God, which is the redemption of all humanity in the earth, our whole relationship with God begins to be centered around our own sense of well-being and building our own house. But, of course, the Lord does not leave His people there.

LIMITED VISION

“In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the Lord by the prophet Haggai, saying, Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:1–3).

The Lord raised up the prophet Haggai to call the people back to the work of God. In hindsight, we know that they were about to build a temple that Jesus Christ Himself would walk into. The glory of that latter house, although it looked different from the first glory, would be greater than the glory in Solomon’s day.

Similarly, just as there was a glory when Jesus visited this rebuilt temple and a glory on the day of Pentecost—there will also be a glory in these last days in which we are living. There will be a greater glory in the temple of Almighty God, and that temple is you and me!

Remember when you first read about the disciples in the Upper Room who burst forth into the marketplace, filled with the power and glory of God? You knew in your heart that the calling of every Christian was to be filled with God’s glory, be brought into the supernatural, and make a difference in his or her generation. You had an image of “the temple.” Even if only for a moment, you saw what it should look like in its glory. Yet, just as Haggai asked, how do you see it now?

Many people might say, “My life is nothing like I thought it was going to be in Christ. I had such aspirations; I believed that all things were possible in Christ. I truly wanted to glorify God in the earth. But now when I look in the Bible and then look at my life, it seems as if I fall so far short of what I am supposed to be.”

You see, there is a weakness in each of our hearts, just as there was in the hearts of those in Haggai’s day. It is this inability to believe beyond what we can see with our natural eyes that in turn opens the door to discouragement in our lives. So how do we get beyond this limited vision? Is it through more Bible study? Attending church more frequently? Our natural tendency is to conclude that if we just read more, studied more, prayed more, and did more, somehow our lives would be an ambassadorship of glory to the Name of God—only to realize later that all we have done is studied more, read more, prayed more and done more. Those are good things, but they may not necessarily bring the glory of God in its full measure. It is only God who can get us beyond this limited vision. So how does He do it?

MARY, MARTHA AND LAZARUS

In John 11 we find the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus—three people who had an intimate friendship with Jesus. He visited them frequently, sat at their table, spoke wondrous things. Martha served Him, Mary worshiped Him, and Lazarus loved Him and knew he was loved of Christ. What an amazing family, even down to devotions in their home with Jesus Himself! It couldn’t get any better than that, could it? I am sure they enjoyed Jesus’ visits to their house, just as you and I enjoy coming to the house of God today. It delights our hearts to come and worship the Lord, to serve Him, to hear from His Word.

However, despite all this, Jesus knew there was still a deficiency—there was still something in these three that could not fully bring glory to God. So what did Jesus do? Did He reprimand them? Did He cause Mary to sit at His feet longer, Martha to serve Him more and Lazarus to love Him more? No! Do you know what He did? He let sickness and death come into their house!

We see the same principle in Haggai—a picture of what the Lord had to do so that His people might truly bring Him glory. “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house” (Haggai 1:9).

“You looked for much and it came to little.” Think for a moment how similar it is today with all the aspirations that our church generationhas had—all the strategies about how to bring people into the house of God. They came in, but they did not last. The Lord said, “You brought them in, but I blew them away because they were not truly converted.”

“Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit” (Haggai 1:10). Because of this lack of true faith, heaven is brass and there is no fruit. We talk of harvest, but there is very little happening, especially within the borders of this country right now. So how does God deal with it?

“And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands” (Haggai 1:11). This is what God does: He calls for a famine, for a financial downturn, for unemployment! In other words, He takes away everything that has brought us into a false confidence—not in anger, but out of love for His people.

The Lord did the same thing with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, allowing sickness and death to enter their house in order to show them their powerlessness. He allowed them to be taken captive by their circumstances, confronting them with their unbelief. Then He came to them one more time to manifest His glory.

IT IS TIME TO BELIEVE

Today we find ourselves in the same position as Mary, Martha and Lazarus—a place where we are not going to see the glory of God in our own strength. When Jesus came to where Lazarus was lying four days dead in the tomb, Martha quoted many Scriptures to Him, but she really did not believe any of it. It had never taken root in her heart.

In the same way, you and I know the Scriptures. However, there comes a point where we simply must believe it. For example, do we truly believe it when the Lord says, “Yet now be strong…all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not” (Haggai 2:4–5). Do we believe that in spite of our failure, in spite of our careless handling of precious truth, in spite of our captivity, He is still with us—that He has not abandoned His church in this hour?

“For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:6–7). In other words, the time has come to judge all nations. “But not you—I will fill you with My glory,” says the Lord. The word glory in the Hebrew text means weight, honor, esteem, glory, majesty, abundance and wealth. The Lord will fill us with what we could never have on our own. It does not come from human effort but rather from simply believing God. That is why the Scripture says, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:8). God possesses
and will endow us with all that we need to rebuild this last temple for His glory.

WRAPPED IN DEATH

So the question that remains is, “How exactly do I do this?” Perhaps, just like those who were called to rebuild in Haggai’s day, you have already concluded in your heart, “I tried, but it didn’t work. I just did not have the strength to stand against all the opposition. How do I go on?”

The answer is actually quite simple. In Ezekiel 37, what do you think the dry bones did? These were the children of Israel whose testimony was, “Our hope is lost; our strength is gone.” Throughout the generations, this is exactly where the people of God often have found themselves. The Lord instructed Ezekiel, “…say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4). That was all they could do. The bones were scattered, without the strength to bring themselves together, yet somehow God in His mercy gave them the ears to hear.

“…I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves…and bring you into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:12). In the same way, the Lord promises to bring us out of our graves—out of every place of despair, hopelessness, powerlessness and captivity. He essentially says, “I am doing it because I am God and you are My people—not for your sakes but for My Name’s sake. It will never be said in eternity that I brought you out and could not bring you in, or that I abandoned you because of your weakness and your failure” (see Ezekiel 36:32).

The devil loves to try to wrap up the church in death, captivity, and adverse circumstances. How he must have snickered on the hilltop as he saw Martha running around quoting Scriptures she no longer believed; Mary weeping because she felt God had failed her family; Lazarus dead behind a stone. It certainly looked like a hopeless situation, and the devil must have gleefully concluded, “Ah, just look at the church of Jesus Christ!”

Oh, yes, he had it all wrapped up—except for one thing! The God who spoke the universe into existence by the word of His mouth is still alive! He is the God who declared, “I will have a church! I will have a people in the earth who will glorify My Name.” Suddenly that voice stood on a mountaintop and called, “Lazarus, come forth!”

Ironically, there was really only one man who could hear His voice—the dead man! The man who knew he couldn’t do it—the man who tried to live but died. The only thing left was the voice of God. The One who had all power over sin and death was calling him, and it was crunch time. He had to decide: “Do I get up, or do I stay? Do I believe my circumstance, or do I believe the voice of God?”

Lazarus got up! He walked out of that grave in the little strength he had, and Jesus gave the command to loose him or, in other words, to set him free and let him go. Where did he go? He went right back to the table with Jesus! However, now everything was different, for he was living in resurrected life. Many people came not just to see Jesus—they came to see the man who was raised from the dead (see John 12:9). Likewise, many people in our generation will come not only to see Jesus, but they will come because of you! They will come because you have been raised from the dead—brought out of captivity and given new life.

A GREATER GLORY

“…I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee…and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:21–23).

A signet is a sign of the authority of God. He was saying, “I will make you a sign to this generation, for I have chosen you—even in your captivity and despair.” It was not our choice but His! He is calling us to be ambassadors of the kingdom of God in this last generation. God is calling His whole church—every place, every denomination, whether they are alive or they appear to be in the grave. Nothing is over until God says it’s over!

The only choice we have is whether or not we will hear His voice and respond to it. Either we believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life—that He can bring us into freedom and do the miraculous through our lives—or we stay in the grave.

Remember, the Lord has promised: “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former…” (Haggai 2:9). A greater glory! God longs to do more in your life than you have ever envisioned. A whole generation is dying in its sin, but now the voice of God has come once again, calling you to rebuild. He is calling you into a freedom and ability that can come only from Him. I implore you today in Christ’s name to step out of all bondage and captivity—whatever it is in your life that has convinced you that God will never use you. Leave that place behind! As you respond to His voice, the Lord will strengthen you, give you His Word, fill you with His Spirit, and cause you to be a demonstration of His resurrection life in this generation!

Carter Conlon
©2012 Times Square Church

“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:22–24).

Considering these words of Jesus, one cannot help but wonder why it is so hard for many of God’s people to pray. After all, if we truly believed these three verses of Scripture, wouldn’t we be running into the prayer closet every day? Wouldn’t prayer be the very essence of our life? Imagine having a friend with a billion dollars tell you, “Whenever you have a need, call me and it will be yours.” Don’t you think you would dial that number once in a while? Yet we have the very God of the universe saying, “I will move anything out of your way that hinders you. I will give you all you desire if you pray and believe.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to finish the race with prayer. I have seen the fruit of prayer in great measure over the years, but I never want to get to the point of concluding that I have received enough. If God has more of His life for me, more ways that He can glorify Himself through me, I would be a fool to stop praying and start relying on something other than the words that come from the very heart of God.
So why is it so hard to pray? Obviously the devil is against prayer. All through the Scriptures we see what happened as a result of prayer—babies were conceived in barren wombs, the old were made strong, the miraculous abounded—so, of course, Satan is going to oppose us whenever we decide to pray. However, is it possible that there is something in our own hearts that hinders us as well?

Our Own Hearts Condemn Us

I believe that many people cannot pray because they constantly feel condemned. Imagine how difficult it would be to visit a friend who always magnified your faults and criticized your most sincere efforts. Although you come in happy, suddenly your spirits are dampened as this friend starts pointing out everything that you are not doing right.

Have you ever encountered something similar in the prayer closet? When I was a young Christian, I had a difficult time with this. If I prayed fifty-eight minutes, I would walk away and a small voice would say, “What? Could you not pray with Me one hour?” If I prayed an hour and five minutes, the voice would say, “Is that all of the twenty-four hours of your day that you can spare for the Lord?”

Of course, this constant condemnation was from my own heart, although it is easy for us to mistakenly attribute such thoughts to God. Because of this, we enter the prayer closet in a manner much like Peter in Acts 10. The Scripture says that Peter went up on a rooftop, and as he began to pray, a sheet was let down by its four corners and contained all kinds of unclean beasts, birds and insects. This is exactly what our prayer life can be like—as we go into that secret place and get on our knees to pray, immediately a sheet comes down containing all our failings, faults, struggles and shortcomings.

Does this sound familiar? All the things you did wrong, all the places where you fell short as a Christian, all these little things come to your mind—as if that is all God remembers. However, notice that the Lord instructed Peter, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat” (Acts 10:13). In other words, “Be nourished, Peter. Strengthen yourself during this time of revelation that I am giving to you.” Peter insisted, “No, I can’t do that because there is such uncleanness here.” In a similar way, many people today cannot grow in grace or lay hold of the promises of God because of a constant awareness of their uncleanness.

The Lord replied to Peter, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15). When we go into the prayer closet, we must understand that we have been cleansed from all sin by the blood of Jesus Christ, and we are not to call ourselves unclean anymore. The Bible says that in Christ we are the righteousness of God. In other words, we are as clean as God is—which would actually seem almost blasphemous if it were not written in the Scriptures.

I thank God for the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ. I thank God that I do not have to be strong to go into the prayer closet. As a matter of fact, the book of Hebrews tells me that it is in my time of need that I should go to the throne of God. It is when I need strength, direction, empowerment and help that I should go boldly to the throne of grace (see Hebrews 4:16). As His children, we have an open invitation to come into the presence of our heavenly Father.

Remember that the apostle Paul said, “Be careful for nothing…” In other words, do not be weighed down; do not let the enemy or your own heart condemn you. “…but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). How can we come into the prayer closet with thanksgiving if we do not believe that we are already received of God? We must be convinced that it is God’s delight to manifest the life of His Son in us—to give us the things that we need to represent Him on the earth. That is the key to praying with thanksgiving.

Asking Amiss

Another reason we may have difficulty praying is because our desires are not in line with God’s desires for us. “…Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:2–3). You and I are left on the earth to make known the love of God—the love that sent His Son to a cross—and to glorify the Son. Christ bought the redemption, but we are to bring the reality of that redemption—the reality of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Yet when we forget this purpose, we ask amiss, and then we wonder why our prayers are not answered.

Think for a moment of what can result when we pray in line with God’s desires. When the 120 came out of the Upper Room in the Book of Acts, God had supplied them with the strength that they had prayed for—a supernatural strength that replaced mountains of fear and unbelief. There they were, 120 predominantly uneducated people, simply bursting into the marketplace among those who still had the blood of anger on their lips toward followers of Jesus Christ. Yet these disciples were filled with boldness and the presence of God.

The Greek word megaleios means they were speaking of the anticipated outworking of the inward life of God. They were speaking about what God was going to do, what He had given them, the faith that was alive in their hearts. The religious looked at this and essentially said, “Wow! There is nothing of our religion that has ever given us anything like this! What must we do to be saved?”

Or consider the story in Genesis 24 where Abraham told his servant to go back to his country and find a bride for his son Isaac. This servant journeyed out to the land of Abraham’s family and prayed, “Lord, if You have prospered my journey, and if You are going to be favorable to my master, lead me to the bride for his son” (see Genesis 24:12–14).

The Scripture says that before he was done speaking, Rebekah came out with her pitcher on her shoulder (Genesis 24:15) before he was done speaking! This servant had traveled a long distance, was in a very large place among a crowd of strangers, and did not even know where Abraham’s family was. However, he prayed, and the miraculous began to unlock. I thank God that Abraham’s servant was not a strategist. I thank God there were no phone books or cell phones available. In that generation he did what every man should do—he prayed! And when he prayed, God sovereignly began to answer that prayer. Rebekah was grafted into the lineage of Jesus Christ, and from this came Jacob, the patriarchs of Israel, and ultimately the Son of God Himself. What incredible results we see when we do not ask amiss!

Fear Of What God May Ask

Many times we cannot pray because we are unwilling to follow the pathway that may open up before us. We are afraid that God is going to ask something of us that we are not willing to give up. In Acts 8, we read the account of a man named Philip who had a marvelous ministry in Samaria. Multitudes were being saved and healed and even the original apostles had taken notice of his ministry. Yet, while in prayer, Philip was asked to leave what most would view as security and success—all to go to a barren place, into a situation he did not understand.

You and I tend to have a view of what our lives should be and what success is. Therefore we are not willing to go into the prayer closet lest God ask us to do something that is not on our agenda. That is why some churches today are filled with people who are simply using Jesus Christ to further their own agenda rather than the will of God.

Philip chose to obey God and left Samaria for a desert place. It was in that desert that he experienced a miracle—a man of authority from Ethiopia being brought to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. After baptizing this Ethiopian eunuch, the Scripture says that Philip was translated by the Spirit of God. The Lord just took him and placed him in another city about thirty miles away! Obedience to leave what we view as success can actually be what opens to us the supernatural.

Of course, that does not mean that once we have a willingness to obey, we suddenly understand the full picture. God simply calls us to take that first step of obedience by faith. Philip’s obedience brought the gospel—the first record we have of the gospel of Jesus Christ— into the northern parts of Africa. As we walk in obedience to the will of God and our desires are in line with His, we have the right to come into the prayer closet and say, “Lord, I need this” and suddenly we see the miraculous begin to unfold.

Later in the book of Acts we find the story of a disciple named Ananias. As Ananias was praying one day, God said to him, “There is a man called Saul of Tarsus staying down at his house on Straight Street. I want you to go down and lay hands on him. I am going to heal him and fill him with the Holy Ghost” (see Acts 9:11–12). Ananias essentially replied, “Lord, is this the same Saul that has done great harm to Your people in Jerusalem? I have heard that he has authority from the priests to put in prison all who call upon Your name. Now You are asking me to go lay hands on this man?”

Nevertheless, Ananias obeyed the word he received in prayer. As he prayed for Paul, scales fell from Paul’s eyes and he soon began to go out and preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Christ. Thank God for Ananias’ obedience! What if he had not obeyed God—if he had gone into the prayer closet and pushed out of his mind everything that was detrimental to his own safety and security?

I cannot get over the thought of the incredible, explosive power that is available if we have the courage to go to prayer and ask, “Lord, what would You have me to do?”—and then have a heart that is willing to obey whatever God asks of us.

Speak To The Mountain

Just preceding our opening Scripture (Mark 11:22), Jesus had cursed a fig tree that had an appearance of fruitfulness but was actually barren. He had come to what was a type of religion, a type of a relationship with God. He looked for life on it, but there was none. The fig tree represents everything within us that has no ability to let the power and strength of Jesus be manifested through us to others—everything in us that hinders, everything that does not represent the life of God, all that falls short of His glory. Remember, it was fig leaves that Adam and Eve used to cover themselves in the Garden of Eden. You and I have the power in Christ to curse this—to speak to this area in our own hearts and say, “No longer will you govern me.”

“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith” (Mark 11:23). Jesus said we have the authority to speak not only to the fig tree but also to the mountain. The mountain is the soil—that which gives life and allows things that do not represent God to survive. We have the power to cast into the sea everything that feeds this powerlessness and allows God look-alikes to flourish in our lives. We can cast them away and expect God to replace them with what we need to glorify Him on the earth.

In other words, whatever the devil has said you cannot do, whatever your own heart says will never change, whatever fear there is within you—that is the mountain. That is where you must stand and say, “I do not believe the lie—I believe what Jesus has spoken. Today I speak to this mountain, and I command it in the name of Jesus Christ to be cast away from me and planted in the midst of the sea!”

It is time to have faith in God. It is time to pray and expect the Lord to answer. Oh, what an hour to rise up and be the Church again! What an hour to go into the prayer closet with boldness despite all our weaknesses and come out with the strength of God. What an hour to have a clear mind, a clean heart, a fresh vision for the future, new strength that comes from God alone. What an hour to be equipped with the power of God.

Thank God that as we come to Him in faith, He will hear our prayers and give us strength. He will open our mouths to speak His Word. He will vanquish our enemies, endow us with giftings that we do not naturally have and enable us to face the days that we are living in now. There is going to be a new song in our hearts, and we are going to finish the race with prayer!

Carter Conlon
©2011 Times Square Church


I am so thankful for friends and fellowship in the body of Jesus Christ. It is wonderful to be able  to encourage one another, to spur each other on to continue in the faith, to have a word that might  help lift another’s burden. The  Bible clearly exhorts us not to forsake assembling together— in even greater measure as we  see the Lord’s return drawing  nearer (see Hebrews 10:25). Yes, I have enjoyed many marvelous moments of friendship over the years. Nevertheless, I also have found that God often calls me to  a place where I must journey alone.

“And as they were eating, Jesus  took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:26–30).

Here we see fellowship around  a table, with Jesus openly declaring His intent to obey the calling of His Father, regardless of the personal cost. He was essentially telling them, “As you see this bread broken, I am going to be broken  for you. Not only for you, but for  all people who will turn to God through Me. Just as you see this juice being poured out, My blood is going to be spilled upon the ground for the redemption of all humanity.”

I am sure many of us have openly declared our desire to obey God  to the fullest. We have gone to an altar and prayed, “Oh, God, take  me the full journey; use my life  for Your glory. Make me into  what You want me to be!”
Six months after praying a prayer  like that, you may have found yourself screaming, “Lord, what  are you doing to me?” And the  Lord answers, “Well, I am just answering your prayer. You said  you wanted to take up your cross  and follow Me, so that is what you are doing!” It is not merely a theological cross that you take up, of course. There must be a practical inward and outward working of it.

Unfulfilled Promises


“Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me thisnight: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after  I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended…Likewise also said all the disciples” (Matthew 26:31–35).

We have all had friends say,  “I am in this with you; we are  going over the finish line together!” I cannot help but wonder if, in this context, Jesus was tempted to lean on His friends for this final and most pivotal part of His earthly journey. Hebrews 4:15 tells us Jesus fully understands and feels our struggles and weaknesses, for He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” The God side of Jesus Christ could not be tempted, but  the man side of Him could be.

“Then cometh Jesus with them  unto a place called Gethsemane,  and saith unto the disciples, Sit  ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and  the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy” (Matthew 26:36–37). Jesus was approaching that final moment  when He would give His life for  all the sins of humanity. Into this place of prayer He chose to take Peter, James and John—His closest friends on earth, His inner circle. They had seen His transformation; they had been with Him when  He raised the dead—they knew  who He was.

As Jesus took them into the garden of Gethsemane with Him, He shared with them the agony of His heart. “…My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). In other words, “I am going into a time of intense agony, and I am asking you to be with Me. I am asking for your support, your prayer, your help. You promised Me that you would not deny Me. You promised Me that you would stand with Me, even unto death. You promised Me that no matter how difficult it got, you would not walk away from Me. Now I am asking you to stay here with Me.”

Jesus went a little farther beyond them into the garden and began to pray, His sweat dripping as blood because of the agony that lay  ahead. I find it very interesting because He then got up and went back to His inner circle. Although Jesus was seeking strength from  His Father—the only source of  true strength—He also went back  to His disciples. When He found them asleep, He said to Peter, “…What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). Do you think Jesus could have been tempted to be disillusioned, perhaps even bitter, with His friends? He could have been tempted to question Peter, James and John, “After pouring My heart and life into you for over three years, could you not have given Me one hour when I needed you most?”

During our journey, there will be places where God calls us to go individually. However, it is during those times that we will often be faced with the temptation to lean on our friends. While we theologically know that our only source of strength is God, we all have the human tendency to come back and lean on people. You and I run into a crisis and go into the prayer closet—yet we are not even halfway through our prayers when suddenly we are on the telephone calling somebody seeking counsel. We are looking for strength from God, but we also are looking to people for what only God can give. And there is a temptation in the  heart to get bitter when we are looking in a dual place.

Remember that the Bible says, “…Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm…” (Jeremiah 17:5). Flesh will always fail. As wonderful as fellowship is,  as wonderful as the promises that  we have made to each other are,  we simply are not capable of keeping those promises, for we are all built of the same frail cloth. The disciples were not at a place in their spiritual journey where they could share  in or understand what Jesus was asking them to do.

“He went away again the second  time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass  away from me, except I drink it,  thy will be done. And he came  and found them asleep again:  for their eyes were heavy” (Matthew 26:42–43). I see this as a last backward glance for the help  of man. After all, why did Jesus  come back a second time instead of just staying there to pray? It is as if  He simply was looking for help, for companionship, for strength—only  to find His disciples asleep.

It is only my opinion, but I believe that the Father in His mercy put them to sleep, for it was the strength of God alone that could take Jesus  on this last and final step of His journey. There are times in our  lives when God calls each child  of His into his or her own Gethsemane, and nobody else  can understand it; nobody else  can help them there. People may offer words of encouragement and promise, but ultimately they will  end up asleep because it is not  their moment.

Necessary Wounds

A specific tree in Israel normally yields large amounts of fruit, yet sometimes it starts bearing less than it should. In our natural compassion we would start reading manuals about how to encourage this tree, how to go around the root system, how to give it certain types of fertilizer to help it grow and bear more fruit. Yet the true keeper of the vineyard comes with a huge machete in his hand and literally hacks the tree full swing on the side, causing the sap within to bleed out. At that point the tree has only two choices—it either goes down deep to find water or it dies. Most of the trees go down deep and eventually the wound heals because it finds itself in a root system drawing water from depths that ordinary trees cannot reach.

Similarly, if you desire to walk as Jesus did, you will not escape the classroom of being wounded. People you trusted will fall short. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” Faithful. Did you know that God will even assign people to wound you—to fail you, to fall short of what you think friendship should be—in order to get your roots to go down deeper? Are you convinced that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose? (See Romans 8:28.) We tend to spend so much time rehearsing wounds of the past that we fail to understand that God is the author of these things in order that we might bear much fruit in His kingdom.
“And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matthew 26:44). Jesus left them! There simply comes a point when you have to leave your friends. You must leave this reliance on flesh and move into that place where the Holy Spirit is calling you—a place deeper and farther than natural man can go. It might even  be a small journey from where you are today—just a small step. It  does not mean that you leave your friends behind. It means that you come back and are more committed to them than ever.

Returning In Power

The last part of the journey is  where you and I are called to be  fully given for all people in spite  of their response to us. Nobody but  God can give us the strength to go  to that place—to the place where  we come back. The Scripture says that Jesus left the disciples, and when He later returned, He said  to them, “…Sleep on now…” (Matthew 26:45). Jesus was not looking for strength from them, but instead He returned with the strength of God in Himself for them.

Note that when Jesus came back  this third time, He was not bitter  or indifferent. In fact, the fellowship was about to become sweeter. Genuinely sweet fellowship in  the church of Jesus Christ is when I am not looking for anything from you, nor are you looking for anything from me. Instead, we are both given for each other. That is the sweetest fellowship there is.

Jesus Himself said, “No one that the Father has given me is going to perish except the son of perdition” (see John 17:12). Chosen to wound Him; chosen to betray Him—that was all part of the plan of God. Yet how many people fail at this point? How many get saved, walk with God, attend Bible studies, embrace the Scriptures, sing the hymns of Zion, but fail right at the finish line because they cannot accept that this kingdom is all about being given for other people? It is all about a God who is good to the unthankful and  the unholy; who sends rain on the just and on the unjust. We are  called to represent Him in the  earth, yet how can we do so if  we do not carry the heart of God within us? How will we ever make a difference unless we have been empowered by God Himself to come back and, whether or not it is ever reciprocated, be given for all people? 

Remember that Jesus had to  endure the betrayal of all His disciples, who fled in fearfulness.  Yet God ultimately brought Him  to a point where He could come  back and enter an upper room full of those who had denied Him and simply say, “…Peace be unto you” (John 20:19). Jesus then breathed  on His disciples, saying, “…Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22), and sent them out as the Father  had sent Him. 

And what do they end up doing? They go back to their fishing! Nevertheless, Jesus returned to  them and was on the shore baking bread and cooking fish—calling  them in, talking about love. He  had come to a place where He  was fully given for His friends.

Letting Go Of Grievances

It is time for us to leave behind  those moments when we were failed by the people we needed. Perhaps  for you it was parents in your youth,  a marriage partner who walked out,  or church leaders who disappointed you. Whatever the circumstance, you must get beyond the grievances of man—beyond harboring and nurturing in your mind the failures  of humanity.

Over the years I have seen that many people never get beyond that point. They sit in church, but when you dig down deep, it becomes apparent that they still have an inner grievance against people, particularly those they once considered to be their friends in church. They can still sing the songs, still clap their hands and say, “Praise the Lord”—as long as the one who betrayed them stays about five feet away. Their fellowship becomes selective, and they start seeking out people they believe will not hurt them again. Unfortunately, they do not realize how far short of the glory of God they have fallen. 

When we choose to press in to find the strength that only God can give, we will no longer have our list of grievances. Instead, we will have a heart that says, “Slap my face if you will, but by the power of God I shall be given for all people. Put me in jail, laugh me out of the workplace, but God has given me the strength  to be given for others.” 

There is a time when we must leave our friends for just a moment and find strength that can come only from God. God forbid that in this hour you and I should stop just near the end of the journey—that short distance of going from leaning on people to coming back in the power of God.

When we return in the power of  God, we do not come back aloof  or with resentment toward others.  We come back ready to be given  for all men, even our enemies.  We are no longer looking to draw from others, and therefore we return to experience a fellowship that is much deeper and sweeter—the  true fellowship of Christ! 





Carter Conlon
©2011 Times Square Church